S01E34 St Valentine's Day

Episode 34: The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre & Organized Crime

Join Meredith and Frank as they discuss the darker side of business. They’ll explore what organized crime is (and isn’t!), the real meaning of “mafia,” and how both Al Capone and the FBI used image and media to manipulate public opinion.  You’ve heard that Al Capone was finally convicted for tax evasion? We’ll explain why the real story is much more complicated than that, and also why watching shows like Narcos may contribute to modern organized crime.

Links & Additional Resources

Guns and Roses, 1929: St Valentine’s Day Massacre via the Chicago Tribune newsblog. This features several glass plate images from the investigation and inquest, discovered in the Tribune archives in 2012. Images include: a coroners jury being sworn in at the inquest for the St. Valentine’s Day massacre five days after the slayings, on Feb. 19, 1929;  Chicago Chief of Detectives William Shoemaker showing four machine guns used in the massacre; and Mrs. Myrtle Gorman, , common-law wife of Peter Gusenberg, who was murdered in the massacre, leaving Gusenberg’s inquest.

A photo essay of historical images from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre via the Chicago Tribune. **WARNING**  **GRAPHIC CONTENT** This gallery includes crime scene images that may be disturbing for some readers.

The FBI’s page on the Al Capone investigation and trial.  From the site:

On June 16, 1931, Al Capone pled guilty to tax evasion and prohibition charges. He then boasted to the press that he had struck a deal for a two-and-a-half year sentence, but the presiding judge informed him he, the judge, was not bound by any deal. Capone then changed his plea to not guilty.

On October 18, 1931, Capone was convicted after trial and on November 24, was sentenced to eleven years in federal prison, fined $50,000 and charged $7,692 for court costs, in addition to $215,000 plus interest due on back taxes. The six-month contempt of court sentence was to be served concurrently.

On November 16, 1939, Al Capone was released after having served seven years, six months and fifteen days, and having paid all fines and back taxes.

Suffering from paresis derived from syphilis, he had deteriorated greatly during his confinement. Immediately on release he entered a Baltimore hospital for brain treatment and then went on to his Florida home, an estate on Palm Island in Biscayne Bay near Miami, which he had purchased in 1928.

Following his release, he never publicly returned to Chicago. He had become mentally incapable of returning to gangland politics. In 1946, his physician and a Baltimore psychiatrist, after examination, both concluded Capone then had the mentality of a 12-year-old child. Capone resided on Palm Island with his wife and immediate family, in a secluded atmosphere, until his death due to a stroke and pneumonia on January 25, 1947.

The Chicago History Museum site on Al Capone’s trial. From the article:

Capone pleaded guilty to all three charges in the belief that he would be able to plea bargain. However, the judge who presided over the case, Judge James H. Wilkerson, would not make any deals. Capone changed his pleas to not guilty. Unable to bargain, he tried to bribe the jury but Wilkerson changed the jury panel at the last minute.

The jury that convicted Capone consisted almost entirely of rural, white men. Among them, a retired hardware dealer, a country storekeeper and a farmer. Judge Wilkerson substituted this jury for the original jury to prevent tampering.

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The jury that convicted Al Capone



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